Mid-October, I found myself panting up and down the steep cobblestone streets of colonial Quito. The 10-hour plane ride and the 9000+ feet elevation of Ecuador’s capital were however not the only thing robbing me of my breath. Quito’s beautiful old town represents one of the largest, least-altered and best-preserved historic centers in the Americas and was in 1978 the first city to be declared a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO. But I was not there as a tourist, I had travelled to Quito to pick up Manotas. A name, I was told, that means ‘big hands’, but you won’t find that translation in any dictionary.
‘Big paws’ would be more appropriate as Manotas is a 7-year-old yellow Lab. He was born in Colombia on June 25, 2006. In 2008 Sea Shepherd acquired six police dogs in Colombia and Manotas was one of them. WildAid along with Conservation International selected another four dogs. After extensive training by the elite Ecuadorian police unit Grupo de Intervención y Rescate (GIR) on the mainland, Manotas and the nine other dogs were transferred to the Galapagos Islands in January 2009 where, after additional training by the environmental police, Unidad de Protección del Medio Ambiente (UPMA), they became part of the canine squad combating the smuggling of shark fins and sea cucumbers and wildlife trafficking in the Galapagos.
The Galapagos Islands, officially known as the Archipiélago de Colón, are a group of volcanic islands straddling the equator over 900 km west of continental Ecuador. Its unique wildlife inspired Charles Darwin’s ideas on evolution, natural selection and adaptation. The islands have been dubbed the most sacred ecosystem on the planet.
Since 2000, Sea Shepherd has maintained a strong, positive presence in the Galapagos Islands.
The Galapagos is our line in the sand. If humanity cannot protect such a unique and diverse ecosystem, we will not be able to protect any ecosystem. More....